ARCOLA — On Friday afternoon, Penny Adams got a call at work.
It was Alliance Pipeline, letting her know it was going to flare off hydrogen sulphide (H2S) at two stacks down the road from her Arcola-area home, after the poisonous gas got into its pipeline.
As the neighbour closest to the site, she might find the noise bothersome, Alliance told her. Would she like to stay at a hotel?
On Monday, Adams casts her hand toward her horses and llamas, and the dogs she fosters for Bright Eyes dog rescue.
“Good luck finding a hotel that will take all these guys,” she says with a laugh and a shake of her head.
The noise “hasn’t been too, too bad” so far; she’s just “putting on some white noise throughout the night, trying to drown it out and pretend it’s the combines going full bore.”
When the flares started up Sunday night, Adams says, she and her husband thought it sounded “like a jet engine had just taken off.”
The orange flames, about 80-feet high, are visible for miles.
Head over a slight ridge just south of Arcola and they reach toward the sky, each with a delicate curl of dark smoke circling into the heat haze.
Close up, they are loud.
Shooting from two stacks set back from an innocuous grid road, the flames emit nothing short of a roar.
The noise is kind of like a giant blowtorch, above which you have to raise your voice to be heard.
A security guard at the site mentions the sound is topping out at around 130 decibels.
Tim Dacey, regional manager of Canadian operations with Alliance, says the sound, heat and air are being monitored to ensure they meet regulations.
While she appreciated the heads-up from Alliance, Adams says the company told her they weren’t sure just how loud the noise would be, nor for how long it would last.
“That didn’t really inspire a whole lot of confidence,” she says.
“But I really do think they need a better system than burning stuff off. I mean, they’re burning off poisonous gas? Oh geez, thanks.”
Natural gas processor and transporter Keyera Corp. said Friday that the toxic gas got into the Alliance pipeline after a “brief operational upset” at its Simonette gas plant in northwestern Alberta two days earlier.
As a result, the B.C.-to-Chicago system has been shut since Friday, with gas being burned off at Arcola and Alameda.
In an online notice, Alliance said flaring was the safest way to get rid of the gas that was contaminated with H2S.
It’s not known yet what caused the problem at Simonette or how much H2S got into the Alliance system as a result, said Keyera spokesman Nick Kuzyk.
“There’s some data that we are able to extract from the detection equipment that we can analyze over the course of this week, once everything’s back up and running,” he said.
“That’s still to be determined, but priority No. 1 is getting Alliance back up and running.”
Dacey says the Arcola burn is going “exceptionally well,” and expects it to last for “another couple of days” until the company determines “all things are back to normal.”
By EMMA GRANEY © Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post